Pew study: Election coverage thus far light on policy, heavy on crap

You’ll find the full-sized version of the front page screencap here, but I recommend skimming the version of the report at — especially the part on how different media sectors favor different parties. That’s the red meat section of this supermarket. Quick and dirty, how newspapers cover the race…


…versus how network news covers it…


…versus the all-important cable news breakdown. Do you have any idea how favorable most of MSNBC’s coverage of Republicans must be to lead the field in that category notwithstanding Olbermann’s DNC Hour of Power every night? Whatever will O’Reilly do when he finds out?


There’s actually a bit of hidden nuance to these numbers. As you’ll see from the bar graph at the top of the media sectors page, the coverage thus far has been weighted overwhelmingly towards polls, fundraising, and other assorted horse-race crap, not policy issues. That means good news for Obama, whose fundraising machine earned him all sorts of positive buzz, and bad news for McCain, whose spendthriftiness earned him the opposite. Compare the numbers at the top of this page: Hillary and Rudy are almost even, notwithstanding Hillary’s huge lead in the polls (which is offset by the beating she’s taken on talk radio). It’s Obama almost singlehandedly pulling the overall positivity of the Democrats’ coverage up and McCain pulling the GOP’s down.

Scroll down a little further on that same page and you’ll find 77% of the public demanding more coverage of policy; compare that to this pie chart to see the gap in the electorate’s demand for, versus the media’s supply of, information useful to voters. Given how little time the GOP has spent talking about policy particulars — even by the measure of its own base — that disconnect is probably cutting in our favor at the moment.

Update: More tidbits from Pew:

# As for the rest of the pack, Elizabeth Edwards, a candidate spouse, received more attention than 10 of them, and nearly as much as her husband.

# Democrats generally got more coverage than Republicans, (49% of stories vs. 31%.) One reason was that major Democratic candidates began announcing their candidacies a month earlier than key Republicans, but that alone does not fully explain the discrepancy.

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